Tuesday, April 8, 2008

National black gay conference attracts Atlanta leaders

‘The Power of Us’ slated for April 24-26 in Baltimore
By DYANA BAGBY | Apr 7, 6:04 PM

Some of Atlanta’s top black gay leaders, activists and straight allies will be taking part in the National Black Justice Coalition’s national conference titled “The Power of Us” slated for April 24-26 in Baltimore.

Hundreds of people are expected to converge in Baltimore for the conference that plans for more than 50 national speakers and panelists and some 35 workshops, including Q&A discussions as well as receptions and dinners.

“The goal is to bring black and non-black LGBT leaders together and to build alliances with non-black and non-LGBT organizations,” said Herndon Davis, spokesperson for the NBJC (www.nbjcoalition.org). The conference will focus on three topics: health, spirituality and leadership. Registration is ongoing until the conference opens, he added.

“With the presidential election coming, we thought this would be a great opportunity to address serious issues in a public forum,” Davis said.

Health issues will be a major focus at the conference, especially because of the rising rates of HIV infection among black gay men, Davis said. Dr. David Malebranch of Emory University, who has done significant research on HIV among black gay men, will be taking part in that aspect of the conference.

The NBJC also plans to hold its third annual Black Church Summit as part of the conference. The first NBJC Black Church Summit was held in Atlanta at First Iconium Baptist Church and featured keynote speaker Rev. Al Sharpton. Although they are not gay, Dr. Ken Samuel, pastor of Victory Church for the World, UCC, in Stone Mountain; and Dr. Timothy McDonald, pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church, will be on hand to discuss homophobia in the black church.

“Homophobia is unfortunately still a pervasive force in the black church and we want to keep addressing this issue,” Davis said.

Carey Sherrell of Atlanta, former contestant on NBC’s “The Apprentice” and fashion designer, will also be at the conference as part of its star power that also features comedian Karen Williams and Ray Cunningham, an actor from BET’s “College Hill.”

Political leaders and political strategizing will also be a major part of the conference, Davis said, with several black gay politicians attending, including Connecticut State Rep. Jason Bartlett, who came out in late February and is the first openly black gay state legislator in the country. NBJC reports there are also six openly black gay elected officials in the U.S.

Other noted speakers to be at the NBJC conference include Bishop Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire; Joel Ginsberg, executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association; and Leah Daughtrey, chief of staff of the Democratic National Committee.